By: Kevin Hopps (writer)
The Story: They say lost Atlantis holds many secrets. No one says anything about Starros.
The Review: When the producers of Young Justice let on their show takes place on a parallel Earth, they opened up literally a whole new world of story possibilities. They have the double-benefit of using DC canon for their source material, but molding it to their imagination. It’s been fun exploring this universe little by little through the team’s missions, but the more you see, the more eager you get to really tramp about its locales to see what’s familiar and what’s all-new.
Aqualad’s sabbatical to Atlantis could not be a more ideal locale for seeing just how much creativity the writers will put into their world-building. Hopps gives us everything you expect in Atlantis: the exotic, almost extraterrestrial marine life, the neo-classical architecture, the melding of ancient magic and advanced science, even its own Tolkienish language—the show’s brilliant animation brings it all to life, jumping an even higher bar of quality than it already has.
The reimagining of the Aqua-family is also stellar. Some people wondered at the choice of Kaldur’ahm as Aqualad, but Hopps cleverly shows both Garth and Tula having chosen the Atlantean conservatory of magic as their vocations. Guest stars include Aquaman’s wife Mera, half-brother Orm (kudos for making him actually look Inupiat), and royal science advisor Vulko. Even Lagoon Boy and Letifos make cameos. If you’re an Aqua-fan, this episode is practically catered to you.
Easter egg fun aside, Hopps writes an altogether sound episode, opening right in the middle of a mission gone awry, and Batman chalking it to Kaldur’s homesickness. It’s not great we don’t see how Kaldur is supposedly responsible for the whole deal, but the scene itself works (note Bruce Greenwood’s excellent voice work as Batman) and the trade-off is we get to Atlantis that much sooner. Kaldur’s interactions with his ocean friends and family give him some much needed personality, but I think we all just have to accept he’s the strong-and-silent type of the team.
Hopps also brings plenty of underwater action with Black Manta and his forces facing off against the Atlanteans and the Aqua-family (minus Arthur). The melding of blaster guns, hydro-kinesis, and spell-slinging makes for visually and physically spectacular fight sequences. It’s also good to see that writers are really embracing the tough broad Mera that’s popularized in Brightest Day. Manta comes off smart and formidable sparring versus both Aqualads, and his quest for Starro is marred only by the fact that we don’t get to see the alien starfish in action—not yet, anyway.
It’s clearly an Aqualad-centric episode, but Hopps wisely checks in with the rest of the team in short vignettes featuring their civilian lives. The sappiness of Miss Martian and Superboy’s innocent romantic tension gets (thankfully) interrupted when Superboy ends up covered in cake while Red Tornado looks on, bemused. The others get more touching moments: Robin shooting hoops with Bruce; Kid Flash gorging on the entire Flash family’s share of ice-cream; and Artemis promising her quadriplegic, Asian mother (?!) to attend Gotham Academy and make something of herself. They’re all good character scenes, saying a lot in little time.
Conclusion: For a less-than-half-hour cartoon, this episode is jam-packed with material, spanning the gamut of sci-fi/fantasy, superhero action, and family drama. A couple minor flaws keeps it from getting a perfect grade, but this is about as good as it gets.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – So Artemis’ name is actually Artemis Crock. What do you think–real or fake?
– Finally, we see Robin’s eyes! And they’re normal. I dunno—after all this time, I almost expected them to be all black, like an oil-possessed in X-Files.
– I don’t know why, but when Mera announced, “I am with child,” I laughed my head off.